Local Cub Scouts first in nation to receive presidential fitness award

The challenge: be active for an hour a day, five days a week, for six weeks.

It was a challenge put forth by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and it was a challenge met by 13 children in local Cub Scout Pack 914.

The scouts, who meet at Jeffers Hill Elementary School in Columbia, were presented with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award and the SCOUTStrong Award on Thursday, Jan. 26, in front of a crowd of their fellow Scouts, parents and friends at the school.

In all likelihood, the boys are the first Cub Scouts in the nation to receive the PALA, said Dr. Stephen McDonough, a member of the president's council. The award, launched last year, has so far gone to only Boy Scouts.

"To have young kids complete the challenge is even more remarkable," McDonough said. "They're setting an example. You have to work hard to do it, work very hard. Some people exercise three or four times a week, but not for 60 minutes, not for every day."

The challenge is open to Scouts and any member of the Scouting community: friends, family members and alumni, said Glaci Hines, a scout mother for Pack 914. Twenty people received the award Thursday night, including the 13 Scouts.

It was exciting to see her two sons, both Cub Scouts, and her niece participate in the challenge, said Hines, who also participated.

"It was great to see them not just try, but really go for it," she said. "They reminded me every day that we needed to get our requirement in."

For adults, the challenge is just 30 minutes a day.

"It's more important that kids be more active — they're in the growing process, and that's what their needs are," McDonough said. "Right now we're dealing with a societal change toward a sedentary lifestyle. The Boy Scouts are taking this on."

Being active for an hour a day was actually not much of a challenge for many of the boys.

"Running around and playing is pretty much what I do all day," said Douglas Hines, 8, a third-grader at Jeffers Hill and Hines' son. "Getting active is fun, and healthy — getting that into your mind makes it exciting."

Over the course of the challenge, Douglas said he learned archery and how to shoot a BB gun. A fellow Cub Scout, Brendan Cauley, 7, said he met his daily requirement by playing on the playground, and by walking to and from school.

"I play with my friends, too," said Brendan, a second-grader. "We play on the playground, or play a lot of kickball. That was really fun. I finally got my friends to play kickball."

Hines said the pack plans to run the program again, as not all 27 members completed the challenge. They also hope to reach out to other packs and other schools to get more children involved.

"We're not done yet," she said. "It's a continued effort. It's a commitment."

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